Unfortunately, when assisting in child contact arrangements on a relationship breakdown, it is not uncommon to hear statements such as "my partner is telling lies about me to manipulate the children" or "the children do not want to see me because of what my partner has said to them".
Whilst there is no single definition of parental alienation, it is recognised by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) as when a child's resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.
The High Court has firmly acknowledged that some parents psychologically manipulate the child to undermine their relationship with the other parent, sometimes without malice or deliberate intent, and the courts are aware of the harm that parental alienation can have.
A child's feelings can be influenced by the parent they live with, who subconsciously or consciously alienate the child against the non-resident parent.
Parental alienation also occurs if a child has been deliberately coerced or pressured to align themselves to one parent by the other parent.
Indicators of alienation can include:
It is harmful for children to be exposed to alienating behaviours, and it may be necessary to make an application to the Family Court for a Child Arrangements Order. This way, the concerns can be formally investigated, and the court can consider how any relationship can safely be restored between the child and parent.
If an application is made to the court, Cafcass can make recommendations to the court as to what referrals, intervention or support is needed to end or reduce any impact on the child concerned.
If the parent with whom a child lives cannot meet the child's needs and allow them to have a relationship with the other parent, the court can change the child's living arrangements if it is considered in the child's best interest.
Cases involving parental alienation are complex. If you are concerned about parental alienation, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible and make your solicitor aware of your concerns at the earliest opportunity.
The Family Law Team at Myerson are all members of Resolution, an organisation of family professionals committed to promoting a constructive approach to family issues that consider the whole family's needs. If you have any more questions or would like more information regarding parental alienation, you can contact our Family Law Team below.